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Think Outside the Box to Make the Best Hire

Workforce Development

By Guy Ross, Construction Executive

One of the most common mistakes employers make during the hiring process is clinging too tightly to a preconceived notion of what the right candidate will be like. While it’s true that any potential new hire needs to be able to do the job they are being hired for, in today’s candidate-short construction market, it is important to think outside the box when it comes to finding talent.


For example, take a contractor looking for an assistant project manager with multifamily experience on $40 million projects. There’s an employment candidate in the same market and, on paper, he does not fit all of the contractor’s requirements—the candidate was working on much smaller projects and had no multifamily experience.

However, the candidate’s resume showed he had worked his way through college in a variety of sales and construction jobs and he was a sharp person with a lot of potential. The contractor took a chance on the candidate’s work ethic and potential and the candidate ended up working hard and performing at an extremely high level.


If he contractor had stuck to the original checklist and refused to consider an out-of-the-box candidate, the contractor would have missed out on hiring an A-player. The reality is that companies can train someone on the technical side of a job, such as computer programs and construction processes. But there are certain qualities that can’t be trained, including a good work ethic, strong morals and integrity, and an eagerness to learn—which are some of the most important qualities an employee can have but are hard to quantify on a resume. It’s important for employers to find ways to assess those character traits, whether it’s by asking directly during reference checks or presenting candidates with hypothetical scenarios in an interview to gauge their responses.


As the labor shortage in the construction industry continues, it is important to realize that some of the best workers on the market may come from a variety of backgrounds. For example, the candidate mentioned above had a background that included some construction but also included auto sales positions. While a contractor may prefer the idea of a project manager who came up through the trades, someone with a sales background might be perfect for negotiating deals with subcontractors or giving presentations to owners. That polish may not be natural to those with a background in the field, but it is a strong part of salesmanship.

Other candidates may have left the industry during the recession and worked elsewhere to make ends meet, but they may now be ready to jump back into construction. Obviously, a candidate must have some relevant experience and skills, but a diverse work history may just be the quality that will make a new hire stand out.

Finding and hiring top talent in the construction industry requires a lot more than an extensive checklist of requirements. Contractors may be surprised by the qualities that can be impressive and make a difference in a company. Employers must keep an open mind and trust their instincts to ensure companies can reap the benefits of a wider pool of exceptional candidates.

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